Unlike California’s majestic rivers and massive dams and
conveyance systems, groundwater is out of sight and underground,
though no less plentiful. The state’s enormous cache of
underground water is a great natural resource and has contributed
to the state becoming the nation’s top agricultural producer and
leader in high-tech industries.
Groundwater is also increasingly relied upon by growing cities
and thirsty farms, and it plays an important role in the future
sustainability of California’s overall water supply. In an
average year, roughly 40 percent of California’s water supply
comes from groundwater.
A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires local
and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable
groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.
In 2014 California introduced the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act (SGMA) into state law to help manage the
conflict between ground and surface water. But updating legal
structures to accommodate evolving scientific knowledge
involves far more than simply rewriting statutes, according to
researchers in the US.
All residents and organizations within the Indian Wells Valley
will have to implement register their wells come Oct. 1
following the approval of an ordinance by the Indian Wells
Valley Groundwater Authority board of directors.
California has long been a top producer of oil. But that may
change. Some hope that change will accelerate under Gov. Gavin
Newsom, who has called for a decrease in the demand and supply
of fossil fuels. A recent massive spill in Chevron’s Cymric
oilfield in Kern County, about 35 miles west of Bakersfield,
prompted a major regulatory shakeup and could bolster that
Recent validation by state regulators of the effective and
sustainable management of Coachella Valley’s groundwater basins
speaks volumes about the importance of collaboration by local
water managers to protect our most important resource.
The successes and failures of Australia’s recent reform of the
Murray-Darling Basin hold valuable lessons for policy makers in
California and elsewhere who are likely to grapple with the
environmental repercussions of extreme drought in the future.
Solar energy projects could replace some of the jobs and tax
revenues that may be lost as constrained water supplies force
California’s agriculture industry to scale back. However, the
shift from farm to solar is controversial — it can alter the
pastoral landscape and take some of the most fertile soil in
the world out of production at a time when the global
population is soaring.
While wildfires have gotten much of the attention in California
as consequences of climate change, it’s really rising sea
levels that will likely wreak the most damage. With more than
25 million people living near the coast, some $150 billion
worth of property is at risk.
California regulators are negotiating an agreement with two
major oil companies that would allow them to keep injecting
millions of gallons of wastewater into potential drinking water
and irrigation supplies in the Central Valley for three years.
The Clovis City Council in July approved an amended deal with
the Fresno Irrigation District concerning the conveyance of
Kings River water to the city’s water system. … The agreement
includes “the addition of a new water supply to meet future
City growth and support implementation of the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).”
The story behind a proposal to pump water from under the Mojave
Desert in San Bernardino County is a long and complicated one.
Since its approval in 2012, the Cadiz Valley Water
Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project has been tied up in
litigation from environmental groups, fought over in the state
legislature and faced hurdles by state and federal government
With the last drought in the rearview and the next one
inevitable, the damaging run on groundwater has state water
agencies and lawmakers mulling whether to spend hundreds of
millions to patch up a federally owned canal. But critics say
doing so would amount to a clear bailout for the state’s
During the drought of 2012-16 landowners pumped more and more
groundwater to compensate for the lack of rain. Thousands of
wells ran dry. As a result, California passed a law requiring
water users to organise themselves into local Groundwater
In light of the recent groundwater modeling scenarios generated
by Indian Wells Valley Water Groundwater, some stakeholders in
the basin have pushed back, including Searles Valley Minerals
and Meadowbrook Dairy.
Conventional oil and gas production methods can affect
groundwater much more than fracking, according to
hydrogeologists Jennifer McIntosh from the University of
Arizona and Grant Ferguson from the University of Saskatchewan.
On Tuesday, groups submitted a letter to California’s key
resource agencies responsible for preserving and managing the
state’s natural resources, urging the agencies to protect
drinking water and safeguard public health from the pending
request for exemption from federal safe drinking water rules in
the Cat Canyon Oil Field in Santa Barbara County.
California was the last Western state to pass legislation
regulating groundwater: the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act of 2014 arrived after more than a century of development,
intensive agriculture, bouts of drought and the looming threat
that our aquifers will dry up. But the details of who would get
to pump what – and the financial cost of achieving groundwater
sustainability – are only now becoming clear.
The Carpinteria Valley Water District is in the process of
forming a groundwater sustainability agency for Carpinteria
Groundwater Basin in partnership with the city of Carpinteria,
Santa Barbara County and Ventura County.
A plume of toxic chemicals has tainted the groundwater for
decades, and it’s now at the center of a bitter fight over how
the aquifer should be cleaned up and what should happen to the
water in the future.
Our event calendar is an excellent
resource for keeping up with water events in California and the
Groundwater is top of mind for many water managers as they
prepare to meet next January’s deadline for submitting
sustainability plans required under California’s Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act. We have several upcoming featured
events listed on our calendar that focus on a variety of relevant
A plan to increase mining depths at a 920-acre sand and gravel
mining facility between Livermore and Pleasanton will be
reviewed next week during a public meeting where citizens can
learn more about the possible impacts to water quality, water
management and flood channels.
With the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Board of
Directors set to pass an ordinance requiring mandatory
groundwater well registration on Aug. 15, a looming question
remains: how to notify residents in the valley.
According to a 2017 report by the Outdoor Industry Association,
outdoor recreation generated $92 billion in consumer spending
in California and is directly responsible for 691,000 jobs in
the state. That’s why local residents and elected leaders have
sought additional safeguards to make sure that some of the more
extraordinary lands and rivers within the national forest and
monument receive permanent protection as wilderness and wild
and scenic rivers.
Butte County, California Water Service and Paradise Irrigation
District are kicking off the lengthy process on a project to
pipe water from Paradise to Chico. The project would seek to
restore some viability to PID, which lost most of its customers
after the Camp Fire. It would also reduce demands on the
groundwater basin currently used for water in Chico to boost
A new tool from the World Resources Institute for assessing
water stress around the globe is shedding much-needed light on
a growing mismatch between the supply and demand for fresh
water. But an article surveying the data assembled by WRI for
the digital New York Times this week missed the mark in
describing California’s situation, where water use tops all
The implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act has presented some challenges, however it appears the
overall process is progressing smoothly overall. Supervising
Engineering Geologist with the Department of Water Resources,
Steven Springhorn noted that the stakeholders have been
diligent in adhering to the timeline established by the
We are a profession that depends on, and you might even say
reveres, a good map. Rights to water flowing in surface streams
are fundamentally defined by geography, and maps have long been
a requirement of appropriation and essential evidence of
The tactic is considered one of the best ways to prevent the
kind of catastrophic destruction that has become common from
wildfires, but its use falls woefully short of goals in the
U.S. West. A study published in the journal Fire in April found
prescribed burns on federal land in the last 20 years across
the West has stayed level or fallen despite calls for more.
A drone soared over a blazing hot cornfield in northeastern
Colorado on a recent morning, snapping images with an infrared
camera to help researchers decide how much water they would
give the crops the next day.
The Superior Court of California in the County of Siskiyou said
the company owns the exclusive right to divert and use 4.07
cubic feet per second of Beaughan Springs water and the City of
Weed acknowledged that it has no ownership interest in the
water and agreed to end all claims to the water rights.
At his inaugural Speaker Series on July 15, California
Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot led a discussion
on restoring local wildlife species and habitats by
reactivating floodplains. The Secretary’s Speaker Series
provides a public discussion on emerging ideas and priorities
in the natural resources arena.
The Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District is working with
the Environmental Defense Fund to develop a web-based platform
growers can use to sell or buy units of groundwater. … As
groundwater use is restricted, growers may decided to fallow
cropland and instead sell their groundwater allocations to
The upcoming groundwater recharge project will improve existing
facilities and build new facilities to capture surface runoff
from the Santa Margarita River. When water flows are high, the
runoff would recharge groundwater basins on Camp Pendleton.
Under U.S. EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act and California
regulations, when oil companies want to use “cyclic steam”
blasting or steam flooding, they’re required to submit an
“underground injection control,” or UIC, application to state
regulators. But state employees said at least 12 ”dummy”
project folders appear to have been used over the past
several years to wrongly issue permits, including by
Many farmers probably haven’t read the new report from the
United Nations warning of threats to the global food supply
from climate change and land misuse. But we don’t need to read
the science — we’re living it. Here in the San Joaquin Valley,
one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions,
there’s not much debate anymore that the climate is changing.
Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District (Rosedale) and
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced a joint pilot
project today to build the first online, open-source
groundwater trading platform in the Central Valley in response
to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
California’s Secretary of Environmental Protection Jared
Blumenfeld joins Forum to discuss how the state is responding
to the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks and what
he sees as the state’s top priorities and challenges.
It’s hard for U.S. Representative T.J. Cox to understand why
the Friant-Kern Canal is just at 40 percent capacity. … Cox
said funding is provided to maintain the Friant-Kern Canal
that’s supposed to be reimbursed by the Federal Government, but
those reimbursements haven’t been coming.
Holly Foster, whose family runs cattle in Butte and Plumas
counties, said her ranch lost power during a shutoff in June
that affected Butte, Napa, Solano, Yolo and Yuba counties. Her
cattle in Butte County are particularly vulnerable because she
relies on electricity to pump water from wells.
San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District reported more
than 20 billion gallons of water captured, a new record for
captured groundwater recharge. … This is a 30-year record
with 1987 being the last year this much groundwater was stored
into the region’s aquifers. Prior to that, 20 billion gallons
of storage had not been achieved since the late 1940s.
Ample water resources in northern areas of California are
balanced by huge demands from Central Valley agriculture and
the large populations in hotter, drier southern areas such as
Los Angeles and San Diego. California uses the most water of
any state, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, up to 9
percent of all withdrawals from the national supply.
Whether you are a water utility manager, elected official, or
homeowner, future water availability is a concern. There are
several factors fostering that concern and one of them is
climate change. … But as the empirical evidence mounts and a
once doubtful citizenry become more informed, it is instructive
to review what a changing climate fundamentally means to
California’s water resources; arguably our most important.
An important but not widely-publicized local planning process
reached a milestone with the July release of the draft
Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Eastern San Joaquin
Subbasin. This is the public’s first chance to see how
groundwater in this region may be managed for the next 20
A Butte County project will expand its partnership with Chico
State and Stanford University to analyze available groundwater
systems. … It’s a groundbreaking project for water management
in the county, according to Paul Gosselin, director of the
county’s water and resource management department.
New Mexico tops the list and is the only state with “extremely
high” pressures on its water availability. The state’s score is
on par with the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and
Eritrea in Africa, the World Resources Institute (WRI) found.
California ranks second, followed by Arizona, Colorado and
A Butte County project will expand its partnership with Chico
State and Stanford University to analyze available groundwater
systems. The project involves analysis of well logs, and hopes
to expand the analysis using magnetics and a grid to fill in
holes in the data.
Los Angeles water developer Cadiz Inc. has entered into a joint
venture with a division of Long Beach-based California Cannabis
Enterprises Inc. to grow hemp on Cadiz land that sits atop a
Mojave Desert aquifer.
In California, money does grow on trees. Almonds constitute a
$5.6 billion industry, and 2.26 billion pounds were shipped
from California last year to be roasted and salted, or turned
into anything from frothy, barista-friendly almond milk to
marzipan sold on the streets of Berlin.
Like many communities throughout California, Carpinteria faces
sustained and historic drought conditions. … In response to
the shortfall, CVWD proposes a $25 million project to take
wastewater that has been cleaned, purify it and then inject it
into the groundwater basin to be used for various needs,
including potable drinking water.
A San Luis Obispo County policy regulating pumping from the
Paso Robles Groundwater Basin has hamstrung how Robert
Galbraith can farm his land. For decades, the family grew corn
silage, Sudan grass, alfalfa, and grains on their few hundred
acres. Now, Galbraith has essentially lost the right to farm,
though he can see many a green vineyard down the road.
A bill signed Wednesday evening by Gov. Gavin Newsom will
require Cadiz Inc.’s Mojave Desert groundwater pumping
project to undergo further review to show it will not harm
the surrounding environment. … It requires the State Lands
Commission to determine that projects involving the transfer of
water from a groundwater basin won’t adversely impact the
Over the past 18 months, the three Groundwater Sustainability
Agencies (GSAs) in the Merced Subbasin have worked together to
develop a Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) that is
now available for public review and comment.
The Center for Biological Diversity is threatening to sue the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision earlier
this year to exempt portions of the Arroyo Grande Oil Field
from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The Groundwater Sustainability Agency board will submit a
sustainability plan to the Department of Water Resources in
2021 and begin to implement that plan in 2022-2024. The board
last week heard a presentation about funding options to pay for
the groundwater management plan — including fees, taxes or
assessments to customers — and specific projects to implement
I’m here with Dr. Peter Gleick, co-founder and president
emeritus of the Pacific Institute. Peter serves on the Circle
of Blue Board of Trustees from his base in California, where
Governor Gavin Newsom just signed a bill directing some $130
million to improve access to clean drinking water for many
The silvery panels looked like an interloper amid a patchwork
landscape of lush almond groves, barren brown dirt and saltbush
scrub, framed by the blue-green strip of the California
Aqueduct bringing water from the north. … Solar energy
projects could replace some of the jobs and tax revenues that
may be lost as constrained water supplies force California’s
agriculture industry to scale back.
While it may not be obvious to some, sustainable groundwater
management is inherently connected to the long-term survival of
the Delta. Not only does the state’s most significant
groundwater use occur in regions that also rely upon water from
the Delta watershed, reduced reliance on the Delta and improved
regional self-reliance are central to many of the goals
outlined in the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan.
California has grown from 10 million to at least 40 million
since 1950, making it necessary to move water over long
distances to where people live and work. Close to two thirds of
the state’s population is bunched in a few water-dependent
More than 61,000 acre-feet of snowmelt and rainfall has been
diverted from Mill Creek and the Santa Ana River by the
District and recharged into the groundwater basin for future
use by those who pump water from the basin. Imported water was
also used to help supplement the amount of water stored.
Seven and a half years after it was formed, the Monterey
Peninsula Regional Water Authority is moving forward with a
smaller, less expensive version of itself. … The authority
has completed the vast majority of its mandate in backing a new
water supply for the Peninsula and can now be expected to shift
its focus toward dealing with the state water board’s Carmel
River pumping cutback order.
The water cycle is the movement of water on the planet — from
falling as precipitation, such as rain, ice or snow, to being
absorbed in the soil or flowing into groundwater and streams
and then being evaporated to start all over again. Research by
scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey shows water has been
moving more quickly and intensely through the various stages of
the cycle, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.
John Reager is being honored for his work on the GRACE mission,
studying Earth’s water cycle by measuring groundwater, floods
and drought. This helps him and his colleagues study how
extremes of water vary with time and climate change.
Some of the landscaping at Phoenix Sky Harbor International
Airport has changed from front-lawn green to desert tan. The
airport recently finished replacing nearly 11 acres of turf
with native flora as part of a water conservation project
that’s expected to save nearly half a million dollars a year.
When the news broke, in the second week of July, that nearly
800,000 gallons of oil and water had spilled into a dry
creekbed from an oil production facility in Kern County, it
sounded rare and dramatic. But the spill was unique only in its
magnitude. In the oil fields of the San Joaquin Valley, spills
and seeps of oil, wastewater and oil-laced wastewater are as
common as the wind storms that episodically blanket the Valley
Moderator Kathleen Schock got an update on how the work is
progressing locally from Gary Serrato, executive director of
the North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency, Christina
Beckstead, executive director of Madera County Farm Bureau, and
David Orth with New Current Water and Land.
The magnitude 7.1 quake that split open the floor of the Mojave
Desert on July 5 shook up life far beyond its epicenter. In
Death Valley National Park — some 70 miles away from where the
earthquake was centered — 10-foot waves erupted inside Devils
Hole, a 10-foot-wide and 25-foot-long pool that is the sole
home to the endangered Devils Hole pupfish.
The newly formed water market would create a place where
farmers in the Rosedale district can buy and sell water based
on their needs. So if one farmer has too much for his crops in
a certain year, he’d be able to sell it on the market to
another who might not have enough.
Water is the lifeblood of the Sacramento Valley. Yet, the best
methods for storing and using the precious resource are often
elusive. A new water system in operation in Roseville treats
underground aquifers like a bank, making deposits in times of
surplus for withdrawal in times of drought.
By 2030, the Carpinteria Valley Water District estimates that
on a dry year, the deficit could be as high as 1,550 acre
feet—enough to fill 775 Olympic-sized swimming pools, or serve
the average yearly use of 6,200 local households. In response
to the shortfall, CVWD proposes a $25 million project to take
wastewater that has been cleaned, purify it and then inject it
into the groundwater basin…
The Pentagon is launching a task force to look at the potential
impact and dangers that chemical compounds used in military
firefighting foam have had on military bases and the families
who live there, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced on his
first day in office.
More than 90% of U.S. wine comes from California, despite
growth in other states’ production, and it’s putting a strain
on the environment. Throughout the region, wine producers say
they’re striving to save water and use less pesticides, among
other measures aimed at sustainable growing, as they face the
challenges brought on by the advance of climate change.
In areas where groundwater levels have fallen because of heavy
pumping, people have often responded by drilling deeper wells.
But exactly how much that has been occurring on a nationwide
scale wasn’t clear until water experts compiled nearly 12
million well-drilling records from state and local agencies
across the country.
Thoughtfully implementing state law that requires local water
users to bring groundwater use to sustainable levels within the
next two decades will … result in withdrawal of large amounts
of land from agricultural production and the loss of economic
benefits. But we can repurpose those lands to support large
scale storage and solar, as well as other renewable energy
technologies that can help decarbonize our electric grid and
create new jobs in the Central Valley.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, in the Central Valley on Wednesday for a
firsthand look at one of the largest oil spills in California
history, vowed to go beyond the state’s already aggressive
efforts to curtail the use of fossil fuels and seek a long-term
strategy to reduce oil production.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed into law the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund bill in the tiny Fresno County
community of Tombstone Territory — where residents rely on
bottled water because their private wells are contaminated.
Starting next year, Senate Bill 200 will provide $130 million
annually to clean up drinking water in California communities
like Tombstone that lack access to safe water.
Described in a comprehensive new study published Wednesday in
the journal Science Advances, scientists now understand the
causes of the megadroughts common during the medieval period.
With climate change, they predict more megadroughts in the
High-tech firms like Ceres, Prospera, Farmers Edge, and the
Climate Corporation are using artificial intelligence to help
famers decide when to plant, water, spray, and harvest their
crops. As climate change worsens rainstorms in the Midwest and
drought in California, the technology could also help growers
navigate more severe and volatile weather.
Siding with environmental groups and outspoken Oxnard
residents, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday
voted not to approve a plan to add four new oil wells at an
existing drilling site. … It was a big win for
environmentalists and south Oxnard activists who are opposed to
drilling, pesticides and industrial uses near residents.
During our Edge of Drought Tour Aug. 27-29, we’ll visit an
atmospheric river observatory in Santa Barbara that
specifically monitors the meteorological phenomenon and also
visit Lopez Lake to hear from the County of San Luis Obispo on
their cloud seeding efforts.
Registration opens today for the
Water Education Foundation’s 36th annual Water
Summit, set for Oct. 30 in Sacramento. This year’s
theme, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,
reflects fast-approaching deadlines for the State Groundwater
Management Act as well as the pressing need for new approaches to
water management as California and the West weather intensified
flooding, fire and drought. To register for this can’t-miss
event, visit our Water Summit
Registration includes a full day of discussions by leading
stakeholders and policymakers on key issues, as well as coffee,
materials, gourmet lunch and an outdoor reception by the
Sacramento River that will offer the opportunity to network with
speakers and other attendees. The summit also features a silent
auction to benefit our Water Leaders program featuring
items up for bid such as kayaking trips, hotel stays and lunches
with key people in the water world.
Close to $3 million worth of water has rushed down the Santa
Clara River over the past several weeks to recharge groundwater
basins in the Oxnard Plain. The release was part of a deal
between the United Water Conservation District and Fox Canyon
Groundwater Management Agency to help recharge aquifers still
struggling after years of drought.
Pollution from a source of contaminated groundwater near
Torrance Airport — which exceeds state drinking-water standards
and generates potentially harmful chemical vapors — has spread
beneath Lomita, officials with the tiny city recently learned,
though state officials have long known about it. The
contaminants have spread both through the groundwater and the
Gathering California water policy and decision-makers along
with groundwater stakeholders and users, the workshop gave
participants the opportunity to meet European Union (EU) water
specialists, exchange experiences and ideas, and compare
California and EU issues and solutions.
Groundwater pumping has caused stream flow in U.S. rivers to
decline by as much as half over the last century, according to
new research by a University of Arizona hydrologist that
strengthens the connection between groundwater and surface
The Friant Water Authority is confident a parallel canal is the
best solution. This new one will be built in a way that
prepares for subsidence. A new canal would also benefit from
the Ground Water Management Act of 2014, which will regulate
how much and when water is pumped out of the ground, preventing
what some believe is the main cause of subsidence.
Chevron records show the large, McKittrick-area oil leak …
probably originated with an idle well being worked on at the
same time the company was injecting high-pressure steam just
360 feet away, a combination that industry people say should
not have been performed simultaneously in such close proximity
and which possibly contributed to the release.
A new study looked at more than half a century of well depth
trends to gain new insights into the management of the critical
resource. … The team found that, between 1950 and 2015,
across most of the country, groundwater users are drilling
wells deeper and deeper. But well depths did not increase
everywhere … which means that, in some places, wells might
The Natural Resources Agency, California EPA, and California
Department of Food and Agriculture want the public’s input on
how best to manage and deal with an uncertain water supply in
the future. It seems every new administration in Sacramento
must deal with water issues in California that never seem to
The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board of
directors took the first step Thursday to require all
groundwater wells in the valley to be registered by Oct. 1. …
That first step also included a pumping fee to pay for the
required groundwater sustainability plan due to the Department
of Water Resources by Jan. 31, 2020.
Key parts of the case were dismissed in April by U.S. District
Court Judge Jesus Bernal, who ruled that the tribe did not have
a claim of harm because it has always had enough water… Now,
the federal government intends to make its case that this
ruling should be reversed.
The city’s evolving relationship with water is the subject of
the Historical Society of Long Beach’s new exhibit “Water
Changes Everything.” The free exhibit, which opened Friday and
runs through June 2020, shows how “water has determined the
history of Long Beach,” said Kaye Briegel, the long-time board
member who helped put the show together.
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) recently
notified Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency that its Basin
Management Plan (BMP) was approved and considered functionally
equivalent to a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).
Nearly 7,000 customers who live in the old Sativa Water
District complained for months about murky brown water with a
foul odor coming from their pipes. … Los Angeles County,
which now has control of the water district, is taking old
wells offline and connecting them to a neighboring water
More effective use of green water – rainfall stored in soil –
could mitigate irrigation demand for some of California’s most
important perennial crops. So say US researchers who simulated
13 years’ growth of alfalfa, grapes, almonds, pistachios and
walnuts under different irrigation strategies.
Scientists at UC Davis have developed five new types of the
berry set to hit the market this fall. … Researchers say
these new strawberries are the best of both worlds: the
strawberries will use less water, fertilizer and pesticides and
still produce more, healthier, higher-quality strawberries.
State Department of Water Resources officials emphasized they
aren’t claiming well water use is harming the subterranean
reservoir beneath the Napa Valley floor. Rather, they said a
more than 1,000-page basin report submitted by Napa County
doesn’t allow them to make a judgement.
One evening, at a community center in the Sacramento Valley, a
teacher, a civil engineer, a tomato farmer and a local
foundation board member found themselves standing above a
table, feverishly competing to scoop the most glass beads from
a large, communal bowl. But there was a catch.
On the same day Sen. Dianne Feinstein chastised Chevron Corp.
for keeping an 800,000-gallon spill outside Bakersfield “under
wraps,” California officials confirmed Thursday that the site
was once again seeping a hazardous mix of oil and water.
The quake struck outside of Ridgecrest, but it was also felt
about 150 miles to the east, at Devils Hole, a detached 40-acre
area of Death Valley National Park that is across the
California border in Nevada. That shaking is shown in a
remarkable video released by the National Park Service. The
clip shows water violently sloshing around, rising and falling
10 to 15 feet, according to a park estimate.
Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot discussed the
Governor’s water resilience portfolio and reiterated the Newsom
administration’s support for modernized conveyance in the
Delta. That was followed by a robust discussion that included
Delta conveyance, water storage, emerging contaminants and
PFAS, among other things.
Water hidden beneath the earth’s surface comprises 98% of the
planet’s fresh water. On average, this groundwater provides a
third of all total water consumed… Before we even start to
improve groundwater management, we must better understand and
measure it, says international groundwater expert Craig
Simmons, from Flinders University in Adelaide.
A coalition of 55 environmental, fishing, and water policy
groups has written Gov. Gavin Newsom, backing his Water
Portfolio planning process, and announcing that they plan to
take an active part with their own proposals for the plan.
Following extensive technical review, DWR approved seven
existing groundwater management plans and two 10-year
sustainable yield analyses as alternatives under SGMA. One
existing groundwater management plan and five 10-year
sustainable yield analyses were not recommended for approval as
Requirements to balance supplies in California groundwater
basins have refocused attention on how best to achieve
recharge, and on what’s known as the conjunctive use of surface
and groundwater supplies. Some irrigation districts have been
recharging groundwater in that manner for years or even
Agricultural scientists across the globe including at Stanford
University and the University of California at Davis have in
recent years been making new discoveries showing that healthy
soil holds more carbon than previously thought and that good
soil management can serve as an important carbon sink.
Groundwater overdraft is a major problem globally and has been
a persistent and growing problem in California for decades.
This overdraft is predominantly driven by the economic value of
water for agricultural production and cities.
Summers in San Francisco may soon feel more like the warmer
East Bay. The East Bay may soon feel more like Sacramento. And
Sacramento — well, it might just be too hot to stick around any
longer. One of the most detailed studies on rising temperatures
suggests that few places in the United States will be
unaffected by extreme heat by the middle of this century.
Keystone projects for the midcounty planning effort, mandated
by the state for all groundwater-dependent agencies, include
stormwater runoff management, Soquel Creek Water District’s
Pure Water Soquel advanced water treatment plant, and the city
of Santa Cruz’s ongoing efforts to develop a supplemental water
supply that would primarily make use of unused winter river
runoff, likely through new storage options.
California’s top oil regulator, losing patience with Chevron’s
response to the uncontrolled release of thousands of barrels of
oil near McKittrick, has ordered the company to “take all
measures” to make sure petroleum, water and steam do not resume
rising to the surface after previous efforts to stop the flow
there proved temporary.
Larry N. Olinger, the tribal council vice chairman and a former
chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, died
Monday morning, the tribe said. He was 80 and lived in Palm
Springs. … While on the tribal council, Olinger worked to
resolve a longstanding dispute between the tribe and the
Coachella Valley Water District and the Desert Water Agency.
In a letter recently distributed to a number of residents in
the unincorporated areas of the Los Angeles County Department
of Public Health announced a new fee on septic tank users,
leaving some confused and others surprised.
The seep, which has been flowing off and on since May, has
again stopped, said Chevron spokeswoman Veronica
Flores-Paniagua, with the last flow Tuesday. … Chevron
reported that 794,000 gallons of oil and water have leaked out
of the ground where it uses steam injection to extract oil in
the large Cymric Oil Field about 35 miles west of Bakersfield.
Two consumer groups are calling on California’s governor to
freeze all new oil drilling permits and to clean house at the
agency that issues them, after the organizations uncovered
records showing that top state regulators and engineers held
investments in Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Valero and other
When drinking water gets contaminated, there’s usually a
polluter to blame. Most likely it’s the fault of big industry
spewing out toxic fertilizers or synthetic chemicals. But in
nearly 100 communities in California, this isn’t the case. They
have water that is contaminated with a naturally occurring
chemical: Arsenic. Allensworth, California is one of those
A project to pump billions of gallons of water out from under
the Mojave Desert and sell it to people in Southern California
could be slowed by a bill approved for the first time on
Thursday by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
Proponents have said SB 1 will keep Trump from delivering more
water to farms, thereby harming endangered fish. That sentiment
is exactly what makes SB 1 so dangerous. It relies on the
worn-out trope that California’s water issues boil down to
“farms versus fish.”
Summer is a good time to take a
break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and
watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting
a chance to do plenty of that this July.
But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss
some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re
taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned
for later this year, we want to help you catch up on
Western Water stories from the first half of this year
that you might have missed.
To better understand groundwater markets, attendees at the
meeting played a groundwater market game, which was developed
by the Environmental Defense Fund and the University of
Michigan to teach players about the challenges of managing
scarce groundwater resources.
A new study, just published in Nature Geoscience, reveals an
elegant formula to explain why some trees died and others
didn’t — and it suggests more suffering is in store for forests
as the climate heats up.
On Monday the Glenn Groundwater Authority passed an operation
fee increase for water service, despite meeting some
opposition. Anyone within the Glenn County portion of the
Colusa subbasin except for Willows and Orland will have to pay
the fee. The board set the operation fee at $1.61 per acre, per
year for the fiscal 2019-2020 year.
Our 36th annual
happening Oct. 30 in Sacramento, will feature the theme “Water
Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflecting upcoming regulatory
deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in
the face of natural disasters.
The Summit will feature top policymakers and leading stakeholders
providing the latest information and a variety of viewpoints on
issues affecting water across California and the West.
The state legislative process is designed to create laws that
protect and improve the life of all Californians. It is not
intended to punish a single business or project. Yet, our
Legislature is moving a bill, SB 307, that does just that under
the guise of desert protection.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is an
historic opportunity to achieve long-term sustainable
groundwater management and protect drinking water supplies for
hundreds of small and rural low-income communities, especially
in the San Joaquin Valley.
Agricultural water suppliers must develop annual water budgets
and drought plans that meet requirements of recently enacted
legislation, and are meeting with state officials to comply
with the updated law—a process that could ultimately affect
water costs for California farmers and ranchers.
The California Senate on Monday sent legislation to Gov. Gavin
Newsom that will spend $130 million a year over the next decade
to improve drinking water for about a million people. …
Newsom had proposed a tax on most residential water bills to
address the problem. Instead, the Senate approved a bill that
would authorize spending up to $130 million each year on the
state’s distressed water districts, with most of it coming from
a fund aimed at fighting climate change.
The California Water Commission held the first listening
session at its June meeting with a panel of water management
experts offering their perspectives on what a climate-resilient
water portfolio might look like.
The Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District’s pilot program,
set for testing later this summer or early fall, would allow
certain landowners to buy or sell groundwater to or from
another property owner within the district.
A governing document called the Winterhaven Neighborhood
Standards and Landscaping Guidelines make the desired effect
clear: “Winterhaven’s dominant use of green lawns and
non-native trees creates a Midwestern environment that is
unique in Tucson …”
We estimate that nearly 20%—or 840,000 acres—of irrigated
cropland in the valley has no access to surface water. … With
groundwater cuts looming and no other water supply to fall back
on, groundwater-only areas are on the front line of the effort
to bring basins into balance.
The bill that will provide support for necessary repairs to the
Friant-Kern Canal is continuing to make forward progress in the
California legislature. Senate Bill 559 (SB-559) … was voted
through the Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee in the
Assembly on July 2. The bill itself is seeking $400 million to
make important upgrades and repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal.
Pistachio trees require somewhere between one-third and
one-half as much water as almond trees. Unlike almond trees,
pistachio trees don’t die during extended droughts. Their
metabolism merely slows and when water returns, they start
producing nuts again. … Pistachios can also handle, as
Duarte’s team discovered, levels of salt that have already
killed many an almond tree.
The survival of a tiny, unique desert neighborhood is
threatened because more than 60 years ago the community decided
to form a small water district instead of digging individual
wells. Borrego Air Ranch is built around a private air strip
where residents’ garages double as airplane hangers.
California’s political leaders have made the long-overdue
decision to clean up the Central Valley’s contaminated drinking
water, and help cash-strapped rural water districts. The catch:
rather than assess a fee on water users or tapping into the
state’s budget surplus, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature
relied on cap-and-trade money to pay for a portion of the
The experiment to super-energize water recharging efforts at
Fresno’s Leaky Acres appears to be working. … Tommy Esqueda,
then the director of Public Utilities, described the system to
me as “putting ‘unique’ straws in the ground. The depth and
spacing of these ‘straws’ are designed to maximize groundwater
The unincorporated Fresno County community of Lanare has long
been a poster child for California’s widespread contaminated
drinking water. For the past 13 years, Lanare’s water had
tested higher than the state limit for arsenic, but that
changed in February, when the water received a passing grade
after a $3.8 million state grant paid for two new drinking
Oscar Meinzer (1942) credits Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) with
having advocated the infiltration theory slightly before
Palissy’s time, basing his theories on observations made when
he was in charge of canals in the Milan area. … Such a
scenario might explain why California DWR staff and like-minded
academics and nonprofits have all jumped on the bandwagon of
managed aquifer recharge.
Here in Oxnard, we are also at a crossroads regarding the
safety of our water. In February, scientists from the United
States Geological Survey found that groundwater near the Fox
Canyon aquifer system in eastern Oxnard was contaminated in an
area of steam injection oil production … The USGS found
thermogenic gases — byproducts of oil drilling — in groundwater
wells near oil operations.
With a big collective sigh of relief, Californians rejoiced
that we have largely recovered from 2012-2016 drought. But this
is not a time for complacency… This should thus be a time to
develop new and better strategies for reducing impacts of
severe drought on both natural and developed systems.
Between 2012 and 2015, very little rain and snow fell on
California. Aquifers shrank and the land dried out. … New
research suggests the loss of deep-soil water best explains why
the mountain range’s trees were unable to withstand the drought
An important blueprint for the success of farming in the
Central Valley is being developed to present to California
government officials. This blueprint outlines what must be done
to get water to the eight counties south of the delta. The
blueprint is a critical step to help keep farmers in business
due to the pressure from the Sustainable Groundwater Management
A catastrophic forest die-off in California’s Sierra Nevada
mountain range in 2015-2016 was caused by the inability of
trees to reach diminishing supplies of subsurface water
following years of severe drought and abnormally warm
Researchers have mapped the impact of groundwater pumping on
surface water in individual watersheds before. But it’s only
recently that computing power has improved enough to look at
groundwater’s interaction with surface water, known as
integrated modeling, on a scale as large as the United States.
SGMA inevitably means less water for irrigating farms. … On
one path, the valley could become a patchwork of dusty barren
fields, serving a huge blow to the agriculture sector and rural
communities and further impairing already poor air quality. …
On another path, the valley could transform into a pioneering
agricultural region that not only puts food on our nation’s
plates but also supports thriving wildlife habitat, outdoor
recreation, soil health, groundwater recharge and flood
The facility would serve two main purposes. In addition to
weaning Camarillo customers off imported water from Calleguas
Municipal Water District, it would also help filter out the
everincreasing amount of salt found in the plumes of water
beneath much of the eastern half of the city.
First adopted in 2013 amid drying wells over the basin, the
county offset ordinance put a theoretical moratorium on
agricultural pumping. But the policy is set to expire later
this year when North County leaders adopt a basin-wide
sustainability plan—even though that plan could take another
several years to fully take effect.
Hermosa Beach, partnering with neighboring cities, was supposed
to receive the money from the State Water Resources Control
Board to help design and build the Greenbelt Infiltration
Project … meant to help clean the Herondo Drain Watershed,
which has consistently had elevated levels of bacteria. But the
city put the funding in jeopardy in March when the council
voted to dissolve a deal with neighboring cities and instead
find a new home for the project.
Of all the issues that have crossed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk
during his first 100 days in office, water might very well be
the most complex. … I am an almond grower from Merced County,
and we in the California almond community are all rooting for
the governor, his fellow policymakers and regulators to succeed
in finding viable solutions and common ground.
On the ground, it’s hard to get a fix on the Central Valley; it
flashes by as dun-colored monotony — a sun-stunned void beyond
the freeway berms. … But in “The Dreamt Land,” former L.A.
Times reporter Mark Arax makes a riveting case that this
expanse … as much as the world cities on its coast, holds the
key to understanding California.
Overpumping groundwater poses a major threat to the
availability of a critical resource… A new dashboard tool,
created by affiliates from Stanford’s Water in the West
program, compares groundwater withdrawal permitting – a common
tool used by resource managers to limit groundwater pumping –
to help plan for a more sustainable future.
The Obama administration violated the law when it issued its
embattled definition of “waters of the United States,” a
federal court ruled yesterday. In a long-awaited decision, the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas sided
with three states and a coalition of agriculture and industry
groups that have been trying to take down the joint EPA and
Army Corps of Engineers rule since 2015.
This segment contains two interviews: In the first, KVPR
reporter Kerry Klein sheds light on what this document says and
does, and shares how San Joaquin Valley residents have
responded. In the second, Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback
explains some fracking basics, including what is and isn’t
known about the technique’s impact on the environment.
Sentinel Peak Resources has cleared an environmental hurdle
that could allow it to move forward with years-old plans to
increase drilling in the Arroyo Grande Oil Field — but whether
it will or not is still up in the air. The Environmental
Protection Agency granted Sentinel Peak Resources an aquifer
exemption on April 30, exempting portions of the aquifer under
the oil field from protections guaranteed by the federal Safe
Drinking Water Act.
Once again, a big thirsty metropolis is looking at buying
Central Valley farmland with an eye toward boosting its water
supplies. And once again, neighboring farmers are nervous about
it. … And any proposal involving the movement of groundwater
from a rural area creates controversy, especially as farmers
begin to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Earlier this month the governor’s Drought Interagency
Coordinating Group unanimously voted to inform the governor
that Arizona’s long-running drought declaration should
continue. This means Arizona has been in a state of drought for
more than 20 years, surpassing the worst drought in more than
110 years of record keeping. Now that our drought has been
extended yet again, it leaves many to wonder what it will take
to get us out of this drought.
Because the Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate
PFAS chemicals, states are left not only to research and track
them, but also to develop regulations to clean up already
dangerous levels of pollution. And, according to recent data
from the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
at Northeastern University and the Environmental Working Group,
the West isn’t doing a great job.
After several failed attempts, there is momentum this
legislative session to establish a fund for small water
agencies unable to provide customers with clean drinking water
because of the high treatment costs. But several hurdles remain
before the June 15 deadline for the Legislature to pass a
budget — most precariously, a resistance among lawmakers to tax
millions of residential water users and others while California
enjoys a surplus of more than $21 billion.
The plan calls for pumping 8 billion gallons of water in the
first few years, and more than 30 billion gallons over 50
years, from the aquifer adjacent to, and connected with, the
one beneath neighboring Joshua Tree National Park. … A better
use for the land, which ceased to be mined more than 30 years
ago, would be to return it to the fold and make it part of
Joshua Tree National Park.
The United States has one of the world’s safest drinking water
supplies, but new challenges constantly emerge. For example …
many farm workers in California’s Central Valley have to buy
bottled water because their tap water contains unsafe levels of
arsenic and agricultural chemicals that have been linked to
elevated risks of infant death and cancer in adults. … So I
was distressed to hear EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler tout
the quality of drinking water in the U.S. in an interview on
March 20, 2019.
The Del Mar Mesa community in San Diego, Calif., has clean
running water. Given this fact, the sight of nearly 20 girls in
an affluent neighborhood carrying buckets of water up a ravine
was out of the ordinary, to say the least. “What we’re trying
to do is represent what African women do on a day-to-day basis:
the fact that they have to travel several miles — several hours
— to just get water,” said Emma Reeves, an 18-year-old
A presentation by the U.S. Geological Survey to California
water boards has surfaced that reveals contamination in the
groundwater around the Orcutt oilfield, the Environmental
Defense Center in Santa Barbara claims. The advocacy group
released the information on Tuesday, stating that “federal
scientists found evidence of oil-field fluids in groundwater
underlying the nearby Orcutt oil field.”
The largest water agency in Silicon Valley has been secretly
negotiating to purchase a sprawling cattle ranch in Merced
County that sits atop billions of gallons of groundwater, a
move that could create a promising new water source — or spark
a political battle between the Bay Area and Central Valley
Community activist Dolores Huerta joined local leaders in East
Bakersfield to urge elected leaders Tuesday to vote in favor of
legislation they say will ensure safe drinking water for
communities in the valley. Specifically, Huerta urged the
legislature to support what’s being termed the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund. It would be financed by the tax
payers, estimated to be a one dollar per month tax increase on
every water bill in California.
Registration is now open for the 2019 Water
Summit, our annual premier event.
This daylong conference will be held October 30, 2019 at a new
location along the Sacramento River in Sacramento. The annual
Water Summit, now in its 36th year, features top policymakers and
leading stakeholders providing the latest information and
viewpoints on issues impacting water across California and the
Cadiz is using Three Valleys Municipal Water District in
eastern Los Angeles County and the Jurupa Community Services
District in Riverside County to co-sponsor what they’re calling
a “peer review” of its groundwater plan, written by four
As the Colorado River’s flow declines, water supplies in seven
states are imperiled by potential shortages. That includes
Arizona, which passed legislation outlining steps it would take
if water from the river continues to decrease. But what does a
water shortage mean for Phoenix?
A public meeting erupted into an impassioned rally in San Luis
Obispo Wednesday night as activists and local residents took
turns bashing a federal plan to resume leasing public land in
Central California to new oil and gas drilling, including
The majority of the dozens of commenters at the meeting spoke
out against the analysis and the prospect of increased fracking
in the region, expressing concerns about air pollution,
drinking water quality, and climate change. … Tempers at the
meeting also flared for what many attendees viewed as a lack of
accountability from the BLM. The agency did not record the
meeting, instead inviting attendees to submit written comments
online, electronically, and only in English.
Slow moving plumes of potentially toxic water are sitting
underneath homes, businesses and schools throughout Arizona.
… While some cities like Phoenix do not use groundwater for
drinking water, much of the state does.
It appears Solano County and Vallejo have avoided a potentially
costly state shift in the groundwater sustainability priority
for the Napa-Sonoma Lowlands. While the final decision by the
Department of Water Resources has not been made, the state
agency has for now backed off its proposal to increase the
priority status from very low to medium for the lowlands.
Precipitation in California is highly variable from year to
year, and climate change is increasing this variability. … To
address this and other challenges, the state passed Assembly
Bill (AB) 1668 and Senate Bill (SB) 606 in June 2018. Known
jointly as the Water Conservation Legislation, these bills were
drafted in response of Governor Jerry Brown’s 2016 executive
order to “make water conservation a California way of life.”
There are six key components…
Nevada ranchers, environmental groups and American Indian
tribes are sounding the alarm over legislation they say could
drain the water supply from rural areas throughout the state.
They’re worried about Assembly Bill 30 in the Nevada
Legislature after negotiations over arcane language in the bill
broke down in recent days.
A firm hired by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority
is already in the initial phase to find sources of imported
water for the valley, according to a progress report delivered
at a Thursday board meeting. … Capitol Core Group, retained
in March, is looking at what water supply options are available
and how to secure funding to ultimately purchase and develop
infrastructure to deliver into the valley.
On Tuesday, May 21, the Board of Directors of the Sonoma County
Water Agencyand the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved
a plan to offset a fee that is likely to be imposed on
groundwater users in the Santa Rosa Plain… Under the plan,
the County and Sonoma Water would contribute up to $240,000
annually for three years to the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater
The session, “Navigating the Waters,” drew a crowd of about 150
farmers to the International Agri-Center in Tulare last week,
where attendees heard from water-agency leaders, state water
officials, farmers and others on a range of topics with the
goal of helping almond growers make informed water decisions.
In 2016, California became the first state to pass legislation
regulating dairy methane, requiring the farms to cut their
manure emissions 40% by 2030. … Enter Neil Black. Black’s
company builds multimillion-dollar projects at the state’s
largest dairies to capture the gas.
Kern’s oil industry took a pass Tuesday on a public hearing
focused on the environmental impacts of fracking, handing the
day to dozens of anti-oil activists who convened in downtown
Bakersfield to rail against the technique and the threat of
climate change. … The event was one of three hearings the BLM
is hosting as part of its plan to reopen federal land in
California to oil production.
An abandoned iron mine on the doorstep of Joshua Tree National
Park could be repurposed as a massive hydroelectric power plant
under a bill with bipartisan support in the state Legislature.
… The bill could jump-start a $2.5-billion hydropower project
that critics say would harm Joshua Tree National Park, draining
desert groundwater aquifers and sapping above-ground springs
that nourish wildlife in and around the park.
As part of efforts by Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California (MWD) to assess its 2014-2016 turf replacement
program during the California drought, we evaluated how yards
changed after converting a lawn through a MWD rebate in LA
County. We also evaluated trends in participation across
The combination of droughts and floods has given rise to a
process known as saltwater intrusion — what San Jose Mayor Sam
Liccardo refers to as his city’s greatest climate threat. …
In coastal regions like San Jose, overpumping allows seawater
to seep into the city’s aquifers, exposing local residents to
excess sodium in their drinking water. The problem is
compounded by sea level rise, which pushes seawater inland
toward the city’s filtration system.
On our August Edge of Drought Tour, we’re venturing into the
Santa Barbara area to learn about the water challenges and the
steps being taken to boost supplies. The region’s local surface
and groundwater supplies are limited, and its hydrologic
recovery often has lagged behind much of the state despite the
recent lifting of a drought emergency declaration following
this winter’s storms.
Water is a currency in California, and the low-income
farmworkers who pick the Central Valley’s crops know it better
than anyone. They labor in the region’s endless orchards, made
possible by sophisticated irrigation systems, but at home their
faucets spew toxic water tainted by arsenic and fertilizer